"A friend of ours heard us singing together and felt that our voices together were magic" We chat with Tanya Trotter of The War and Treaty
With the release of their debut full length album Healing Tide last autumn, wife and husband duo The War and Treaty, delivered a refreshing blend of gospel, blues, and Americana. With coverage from the likes of Rolling Stone and NPR they made an impression. Working with Buddy Miller on the album, and touring hard to support its release gave the duo a platform to shine. We had the chance to speak to Tanya about how they started out, how they create their music, and her experience of being a woman in music.
Hey Tanya, hope you’re doing very well.
Hello and thank you. Yes I am doing well. I hope that you are doing well.
I'm great, thanks for asking. So, a simple question to ease you in… what have you been up to today?
I have been packing all morning for this weeks five day tour run!
And where are you right now?
I’m in our tour van headed to Shreveport, LA to open for Lauren Diagle.
Please introduce yourself to our lovely readers?
Hello Lovelies! My name is Tanya Trotter I am the other half of the husband and wife duo The War and Treaty.
Tell us a bit about you, what’s your first memory of playing music?
My first memory of music was watching my brother Willie Blount, sing in our home church in Washington, DC. He made everyone in our church rise to their feet with his Sunday morning song. I was three years old and still remember the impact that it had on me.
And how did you get into the music business?
I’ve always been into music. Whether it was musical theater or recording. The business of music didn’t happen for me until I turned 17. A guy by the name of Leotis Clyburn saw me on Natalie’s Cole’s Big Break. He called me at my high school to offer me a recording contract after they saw me on TV. Six months later I was signed to Polydor Records.
What kind of music do you listen to in your spare time?
I don’t. I’m usually learning new The War and Treaty songs! No, of course I listen to music. I love Bonnie Raitt, Aretha Franklin, Brandi Carlile, Mumford and Sons and Cecelia Cruz.
The first track on your album, Healing Tides, ‘Love Like There's No Tomorrow’, is acapella, that's a brave choice to open with. How did that song come about?
I attended an old Baptist Church in Washington, DC where we sang what we called devotional songs acapella with hand claps. One day around the house I started singing one of the devotional songs and I mentioned to Michael that we should do a song that gives you the feeling of the old Baptist devotionals. Two minutes later he wrote' Love Like There’s No Tomorrow'. We rehearsed it and put a video tape of the song on YouTube. That was almost three years ago. We never thought that it would make the album. I wanted to put it on the album so we did.
You and Michael have voices that work perfectly together, when was the first time you noticed you sounded pretty damn good?
One day a friend of ours heard us singing together and suggested that we consider being a duo. She said that she liked what we did apart but felt that our voices together were magic. So three years ago we took her advice and never looked back.
‘Jeep Cherokee Laredo’ is another song that grabs you immediately, what can you tell me about recording that?
'Jeep Cherokee Laredo' is one of my favorites on the album. It’s racy, flirty and fun. It’s the lighter side of The War and Treaty. You hear the passion and wild side of us.
As Michael writes all the songs, do you feel a responsibility to make them sound extra great?
My responsibility is to find myself in any song that I sing. Every singer who has the gift of interpreting lyrics and melody owes it to themselves and the songwriter to help keep the integrity of the art honest. Being able to make the songs sound great isn’t enough. I lose myself in The War and Treaty songs. They are apart of my DNA.
I love hearing about US towns (my dad lives in Cottonwood AZ), so what can you tell me about your hometown?
My hometown is Hillcrest Heights, MD. It’s about 20 minutes from Washington, DC. It’s where I learned who I was. It was the place that helped me be creative without judgement.
However I consider Albion, MI the place that shaped who I am with The War and Treaty. I learned my blues and roots chops there.
What’s coming up for you in 2019?
Lots of touring, meeting new fans and working on our new album.
You’re playing a bunch of festivals this summer, how do you like playing festivals?
I love playing festivals. I get to see other bands that I’ve admired from a distance up close. I also run into my Nashville friends who are just as busy as we are. Festivals can be great hangs to enjoy being a fan and an artist
Obviously there’s a lot of talk about equality in general at the moment, what’s your experience of being treated differently as a woman in your industry?
I have experienced being overlooked, unheard and sometimes ignored or seen as a background singer to sound guys or venues that don’t know the bands make up however it is my job as a leader to stand up for myself with confidence and strength.
I have to work harder to build relationships with sound guys at venues or people on the grounds because I am a woman. Developing the leadership skill of patience and consistency in my position has helped me navigate through the male dominated system.
Have you found that you get treated differently from Michael?
Yes I am. If I don’t introduce myself or make my presence known people automatically think that I am a background singer and my sound is usually different than his but I see it as an opportunity.
Michael and I have an opportunity to do something that hasn’t been done by an African American couple in Americana. It’s the first time that a duo that looks like us has done it. Breaking down barriers is what we are all about. I do get treated differently because I’m a woman, I’m black and I’m a leader that great thing is I'm up for the challenge.
If you could recommend one artist to hear this week who would it be?
Mumford and Sons new album. The song 'Beloved'.
What’s the question we should have asked you today but haven’t?
What do I like to do for fun? I like virtual shopping online. Seeing the UPS boxes at my door when I come home from touring makes me smile.
Finally, how do you take your coffee?
I don’t drink coffee. I drink Chai Tea Latte Hot with almond milk and one pack of Equal.
To find out more about Tanya and Michael you can visit their website or check out their socials.